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The details of Gap’s move into the India yields insights into how Asia’s third largest market remains both very distinct from the West and at the same time increasingly similar.

In the US and European markets, womenswear is central to any brand’s expansion strategy, but in India this segment is dominated by traditional dress supplied by local companies. Thus, successful western retailers targeting India have either focused on menswear or on accessories, such as shoes and handbags.

But the strategy of San Francisco-based Gap reveals a market in flux. The group’s local franchisee, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd, envisages the lion’s share of revenue still coming from menswear but at the same time perceives a growing following from women born after 1990. Continue reading »

By Imants Liegis, Latvia’s ambassador to Hungary

This Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of the world’s biggest and longest, peaceful, mass demonstration.

On August 23, 1989, some 2m Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians held hands to form a human chain, 600km long, linking all three capital cities, from Tallinn, Estonia, in the north, via Riga in Latvia to Vilnius in the south-west – at a time when all three nations were still forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union.

Dubbed the Baltic Way, this long thin line of humanity finally linked up at 7.00 that evening. Continue reading »

Peru’s economy is in the spotlight, going through its worst time since the global financial crisis. But Julio Velarde, Peru’s central bank chief, told beyondbrics on his way to the annual meeting of financial policymakers at Jackson Hole in the United States that this is simply, “a rough patch.”

Maybe more like a pothole, some may say, as the economy expanded just 0.3 per cent in June compared with a year earlier. Growth in Peru’s economy, once feted as a star inSouth America, slowed to 3.3 per cent in the first half of 2014.

A drop in investments and tumbling earnings from mineral exports caused by weaker prices and softer demand from Asia took a heavy toll. Lower mining output in the world’s third largest copper producer was also caused by issues at large mines. Continue reading »

** FT News **

* US signals escalation in Isis fight | Chairman of joint chiefs says Isis must be addressed ‘on both sides of what is essentially at this point a non-existent border’ between Iraq and Syria

* Rosneft hit as $2bn Vitol deal scrapped | Russian state oil group’s projects may be in jeopardy without western financing and technology, even though China is set to continue advance payments Continue reading »

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Nations have negotiated trade agreements in one form or another for centuries. And for centuries economists have undoubtedly been facing the same question: Do trade agreements really matter?

The orthodox answer is obviously that they do. When you lower the barriers to trade goods flow more freely across borders and businesses, consumers and economies as a whole benefit as a result. But HSBC and the Economist Intelligence Unit are out with a new business survey that offers some interesting practical realities. Continue reading »

An eccentric Indian tycoon, some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and now the Sultan of Brunei. The story of one Indian company’s tortuous journey out of legal hot water has just taken another twist.

The Sultan of Brunei has emerged as the lead bidder for the Grosvenor House Hotel and other luxury properties that India’s beleaguered Sahara group has been trying to sell off in a desperate attempt to get its ‘managing worker’ out of jail. Continue reading »

Japanese and Indian culture could hardly be more different, but senior executives at Toto, the Kitakyushu-based toilet products manufacturer, say doing business has been a breeze in Asia’s third largest economy.

The Japanese group, whose fancy ceramic toilet fittings are already used in premier properties like the Four Seasons and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai, opened a manufacturing facility in India this week hoping to expand in the fast growing market.

Toto launched a 180,000 sq metre plant in Halol, Gujarat, that will produce some 500,000 toilet bowls every year. The group’s president, Madoka Kitamura, told beyondbrics that he expects about half of the output to be sold within India while the rest is exported to the Middle East and Europe. Continue reading »

Of all the colonial legacies left by Britain, France and the Netherlands in Asia, one of the least talked-about – yet arguably one of the most lasting and problematic – is the patchwork of legal systems that divides the region.

Doing business in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is gradually getting easier thanks to the elimination of tariff barriers, expansion of supply chains and gradual harmonisation of customs procedures.

Yet one of the big “soft” barriers to greater Asean integration, and one which makes life hard for multinationals and ambitious local companies alike, are the differing jurisdictions across the 10-member bloc. Continue reading »

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s Thursday metamorphosis from Thai coup leader to prime ministerial nominee hammers home the military’s near-total control over the country’s main political and economic levers. But the flip-side is that the generals now have responsibility for Thailand’s troubles – but no one to blame if things go wrong. In a draft budget rubber-stamped without debate by the military’s puppet parliament this week, Gen Prayuth promised big spending rises for transport, education and – to no-one’s shock – defence. Here are five charts that show the coup-makers’ priorities – and some of the difficulties they face. Continue reading »

“Anyone who says that Africa is missing the Millennium Development Goals is missing the point.” You might expect such a tart statement about a canonical organising principle of development policy to come from one of the aid industry’s many curmudgeonly sceptics.

That it came instead from Jan Vandemoortele, a Belgian economist who helped create the United Nations MDGs in the first place, raises questions whether propagating a single set of targets to drive government policy across the entire developing and emerging world is worth doing at all. The “sustainable development goals”, successors to the MDGs, are currently being developed, but the unfortunate signs are that they will be yet more complex and yet less meaningful than the originals.

 Continue reading »

** FT News **

* Germany agrees to arm Iraq | Obama said the US would be ‘vigilant’ and ‘relentless’ in protecting its citizens, a sign that the US will pursue Isis

* Brazil injects extra $4.5bn into economy | President Dilma Rousseff’s administration is struggling to boost growth in the face of high inflation and a looming, tightly fought election Continue reading »

Dilma Rousseff is an impressive woman. Under Brazil’s military dictatorship she was held in prison for three years, where she was beaten, tortured with electric shocks and hung upside down for long periods of time. After rebuilding her life, she was elected the first female president in Brazilian history in 2010, setting an example for generations of women to come.

However, in her first official campaign video ahead of October’s elections this week, Dilma has been reincarnated as a…housewife. Continue reading »

Everyone loves the biblical story of the prodigal son. On Wednesday that tale received a touch of market realism when Standard & Poor’s, the credit ratings agency, decided to raise the rating by a notch of a serial defaulter which has been recently welcomed back by the debt markets: Ecuador.

S&P raised the Andean country’s long-term sovereign credit rating to B+ from B, with a stable outlook. While the new rating still leaves the country below investment grade Ecuador’s leftist President, Rafael Correa, is gaining some praise when it comes to economic management. Continue reading »

By Jukka Pihlman, Standard Chartered

Adopted at pace by central banks around the world, China’s renminbi is now seen by many as a de facto reserve currency – and well on the way to becoming an official one.

Central banks have caught the renminbi fever, and are showing strong interest in investing part of their foreign-currency reserves in the Chinese currency, with more than 50 central banks now actively doing so either onshore or offshore.

Uptake is strongest in Asia, Africa and South America – regions with fast-growing trade and investment links with China – but even in Europe central banks are busy allocating reserves to the renminbi. Continue reading »

Global institutional investors regard emerging market (EM) equities as the most attractive of all major asset classes, a new survey of 111 institutional investors conducted by ING Investment Management shows.

A year to the month after Morgan Stanley coined the term “fragile five” to denote five large EM economies – Brazil, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Turkey – that were considered vulnerable to financial market turmoil, investors have become seduced by the risk/reward relationship in much of the EM universe. Continue reading »